40+ Things to do in Abu Dhabi for Free

Breaking perceptions that Abu Dhabi and the UAE are expensive, we have been on a mission to find everything you can do in and around the city that is free (or really cheap!) with your family.

40+ Free things to do in Abu Dhabi, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Our benchmark for “cheap” is anything a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 kids under 12) can do for under 100AED (Around $27USD). You’ll be surprised just how many things we found!

You can see our full guide to the best things to do in Abu Dhabi with kids here.

Top cultural & sightseeing attractions in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The region’s most beautiful building is a mustn’t miss attraction for residents and visitors alike and is completely FREE to enter. If you are not appropriately dressed, you can even hire the right clothing FREE and join a guided tour completely FREE.  

Open Sat – Thu 9am – 10pm, Fri 4.30pm – 10pm. Tours are at 10am, 11am and 5pm.

You can learn more about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque here.

Wahat al Karama

Immediately opposite the Grand Mosque, you will find the Wahat Al Karama War Memorial – “Oasis of Dignity”. There is a visitor centre and Pavillion of Honour, as well as the memorial itself, 31 aluminium clad tablets representing Emirati lives lost in conflict.

From the reflective pond, you can also get beautiful photos of the Mosque. Open daily 9am to 8pm. FREE.

Wahat al Karama “Oasis of Dignity” war memorial

Qasr al Hosn

Abu Dhabi’s oldest permanent structure has been freshly refurbished and is welcoming guests to the Cultural Foundation and Children’s Library, as well as various performances throughout the day. Come at opening or closing time to see the changing of the guard. 30AED adults, 15 AED for children.

Open Sat – Thu 9am – 7pm, Fri 12pm – 10pm. Learn more here.

Qasr al Watan

The newly-opened to the public Presidential Palace is one of the city’s modern wonders. Entry to the Palace in Motion evening sound and light show 25AED adults, 12AED children (Thursday to Saturday). See our full review of Qasr al Watan here.

Emirates Heritage Village

Based on the breakwater near Marina Mall, take a step back in time to experience traditional desert life in the heart of the city. Learn about traditional housing and handicrafts. Open Thu-Sat 9am to 4pm, Fri 3.30pm-9pm. FREE.

The Founders Memorial

Situated near Emirates Palace, before the breakwater this new exhibition is a visitor information centre as well as The Constellation, a giant artwork that lights up at night in the image of Sheikh Zayed. The visitor centre is open 9am10pm daily and free tours are possible. Learn more here.

Emirates Palace

No need to have a booking, at most times, visitors are free to come and admire inside the Emirates Palace. Take your photos, but remain respectful, covered knees are required.

Staying for gold flake coffee, afternoon tea or a camel burger is, of course, recommended but anything beyond admiration in here will likely break the 100AED budget!

Emirates Palace is an opulent hotel in Abu Dhabi

Warehouse 421

A cultural destination in Abu Dhabi’s port area of Mina Zayed. Warehouses have been transformed for artistic expression, understanding, and further development of the UAE’s creative community. Keep your eye out for FREE workshops and revolving exhibits. Learn more here.

Manarat al Saadiyat

Enjoy many FREE exhibits and movie screenings as well as paid workshops in this creative space on Saadiyat Island. Shows can book out so reservations are still required. Open 9am8pm. Learn more here.

Etihad Modern Art Gallery

Housed inconspicuously in a villa in Al Bateen (behind Al Bateen Mall), this contemporary art space and café is FREE to visit and enjoy works from Emirati and UAE-based artists. Open Sat-Thu 10am – 10pm. Learn more here.

Camel Racing

No trip to the UAE is complete without taking in a dose of camels and what better way to do it than watching them race at the Al Wathba race track. Sure there might be more 4WD’s than camels… it’s all part of the fun.

Held weekends and public holidays during the cooler winter months around dawn. (Exact timetables and information is hard to come by). FREE.

Camels in training for race day

Catch our complete guide to Abu Dhabi’s top cultural attractions here

Outdoor Family Fun in Abu Dhabi for FREE

There are so many great outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed totally free.

Stroll the Corniche and A’l Bahar

The Corniche has been one of Abu Dhabi’s highlights for years, whilst A’l Bahar opened in 2018 as a new family entertainment district on the beachfront, near to Nation Towers. Much of the beachfront has been rejuvenated and is FREE to use during daylight hours.

There are some added extras that you could optionally spend money on including bike hire and activities within the A’l Bahar complex such as ropes courses or the Aqua Fun inflatable course. 

Learn more about Abu Dhabi BikeShare run by Cyacle here.

There are several play parks, splash areas and skate parks all along the Corniche that are completely FREE.

The Corniche and city skyline, taken from Emirates Heritage Village

Umm al Emmarat Park (formerly Mushrif Park)

You will find this beautiful family park in the centre of Abu Dhabi island. With its botanical gardens, play parks, wadi, petting zoo and extensive lawns, it’s the perfect urban escape.

A cover charge of 10AED per person applies. Additional activities such as feeding the animals and using the train or The Wonder Maze cost extra.

You will also find the RIPE food & craft market on a Saturday afternoon (3pm9pm) during the cooler winter months.

Open 8am to 12 midnight – learn more here.

The wadi play space in Umm al Emarat Park

Reem Central Park

Another new addition to the city landscape since 2018, you will find Reem Central Park on Al Reem Island. Packed full of food trucks and recreation spaces for all ages. Learn more about Reem Central Park here

Yas Gateway Parks

For one week of the year, they are car parking for the Grand Prix – the other 51 weeks, two superb free parks for families to enjoy! Grab bikes or scooters, or enjoy the play parks and barbeques in Gateway Park North and Gateway Park South. FREE.

Barbecue area at Yas Gateway park North, Yas Island

Al Bateen Beach

On the west side of Abu Dhabi Island, the low-key Al Bateen Beach is a family winner. Safe patrolled swimming with adjacent play park and lawn, as well as a women-only section (Paid, 25AED adults, 5AED kids).

Open 10am to 10pm, swimming allowed until sunset. Learn more here

Al Bateen Bridge and the bridge to Al Hudayriat Island

Al Hudayriat Island

The bridge to nowhere finally leads somewhere! Located to the west of Abu Dhabi island (continue along 19th, beyond Al Bateen Beach) this is a great new space for open recreation; put together your own basketball or beach volleyball games, play on the pristine white sandy beach or sample the food trucks that have claimed this new turf.

Change rooms on site and patrolled beach during daylight hours. Open 24/7. FREE.

Saadiyat Public Beach

Facing directly on to the shores of the Arabian Gulf, this pristine beach is one of Abu Dhabi’s best. A small cover charge applies to keep the beach maintained and protected. 25AED adults, 15 AED kids. A premium sun lounge area also operates. Open daily 8am to sunset.

Eastern Mangroves Park

Stroll the 4.5km long promenade starting at the Eastern Mangroves hotel complex. For extra cost, you can hire kayaks or eco donut boats to enjoy the mangroves close up.

You can read a more detailed review of the Eastern Mangroves here.

Eastern Mangroves
Enjoy the placid waters of the Eastern Mangroves // Image Credit: Shea Wittig

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

Based just outside of the city, heading towards Al Ain on the Truck Road you’ll find this protected wetlands area, home to over 250 species of birds including Flamingos. Limited operating hours Thu & Sat 8am – 4pm. FREE.

You can learn more about visting Al Wathba Wetlands here.

Sports & Recreation Activities in Abu Dhabi

Yas Marina Circuit

Three times a week almost year-round Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island, home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is open FREE to the public to walk, run or cycle the 5.5km track.

Pre-registration needed. Every Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday (ladies only) from 6pm. Learn more here.

Yas Marina open circuit nights on the Grnad Prix track
Walk, run of cycle the Yas Marina Circuit Grand Prix track

Al Wathba Cycle Track

Those that like to get some distance in their ride, head just beyond Mussafah to Al Wathba, near Endurance Village. The track here is open 24/7 (floodlit at night) and has 8km, 16km, 20km, 22km and 30km options, completely FREE. Learn more here.

Step ZSC

If you like a little group motivation to get going with your exercice, join the FREE stair climb challenge at Zayed Sports City every Monday, 4 to 5.30pm (ladies only), 5.30 to 8.30pm open session, pre-registration required. Learn more here.

Masdar Park

Located off island in Masdar City minutes from the airport, a great playpark space with splash park in the hotter months and food trucks on site. There is also a running and cycling track.

Basketball courts can be hired at extra charge. Open daily 9am – 10pm. Learn more here.

The play park at Masdar City

Khalifa International Bowling Centre

You can never go past bowling for some indoor family fun! Prices at this ZSC venue start from just 16AED a game (plus look out for 2-4-1 vouchers). Learn more here.

Free activities in Al Ain

There are so many fun and free (also really cheap!) things to do in the culture capital Al Ain, which sits 1.5 hours away from Abu Dhabi.

  • Jebel Hafeet – spectacular views over Al Ain and over the border to Oman from Abu Dhabi’s highest point. FREE.
  • Green Mubazzarah – picnic or dip your feet in the natural hot springs at the foot of Jebel Hafeet. FREE (the pools are an extra 20AED).
  • UNESCO Listed World Heritage Sites – which include the Al Ain Oasis, Hili Archaeological Park and the Hafeet Tombs. FREE.
  • Al Ain Palace Museum – birth home of the country’s founding father, a beautifully restored example of traditional Bedouin architecture. FREE.
  • Qasr al Muwaiji – birthplace of Sheikh Khalifa, historic fort and exhibit. FREE.
  • Al Ain Classic Car Museum – cover charge of 10AED.
  • Al Jahili Fort – historic building and photography exhibit, also stroll the beautiful Al Jahili Park next door. FREE
  • Al Ain Zoo – arguably one of the Emirate’s top attractions including the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre. Adults 30AED, kids 10AED.
  • Souq Al Qattara – handicrafts market on a Thursday, Friday & Saturday.
  • Camel Souk – you don’t get a more real and interactive experience than the heart of a camel market in Al Ain!
Al Ain Zoo is a great affordable family day out

Abu Dhabi Emirate – beyond the city

If you’ve got your own set of wheels, there’s a huge big sandpit out there to go and explore! Why not try:

  • Dune Bashing in the empty quarter (or almost any patch of desert!)
  • Explore the Fossil Dunes near Al Wathba
  • Go camping at the beach or in the desert
  • Explore Dalma Island and Al-Meraikhi Old House – historic pearl diving home (Ferry charges apply but entry to the island the museum are free) Learn more here.

Have you got any more suggestions? We’d love to hear about them and add them to this list!

Don’t forget to check out these other UAE tourism ideas:

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The best things to do for free - or really cheap - in Abu Dhabi, UAE

This post was written by Keri Hedrick, an avid family traveller and writer based in the UAE.  You can see more about our contributing writers here.  This page contains affiliate links which may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Our full terms of use can be found here.